Friday 30 August 2013

Tiramisu: My Slice Of Heaven

 “A slice of cake never made anyone fat. You don't eat the whole cake. You don't eat a cake every day of your life. You take the cake when it is offered because the cake is delicious. You have a slice of cake and what it reminds you of is someplace that's safe, uncomplicated, without stress. A cake is a party, a birthday, a wedding. A cake is what is served on the happiest days of your life.” 
― Jeanne RayEat Cake   
I am not much of a 'Dessert person'. Put a nice hearty meal in front of me and I can easily polish off every single bite on my plate but when the turn for desserts comes, I can usually show strong resistance to the best of temptations.
 But there is something so wickedly alluring about this sweet and creamy classic Italian dessert, that completely sweeps me off my feet!! Tiramisu aptly meaning, 'pick me up", literally shouts out for your attention, tantalizingly serenading all your senses into a meek submission into its soft, velvety creaminess. How can one help but not give in!! 
This dessert has been on my mind since... well, a long long time. The only thing that deterred me from making it was that I had always thought it to be a very laborious process. Also, I think I was a little intimidated about making the ingredients at home from scratch, especially the mascorpone cheese. But a few helpful tips from the highly talented, ever ready to help, Deeba Rajpal, eased out whatever little fears I had. 
Another thing that  helped to make up my mind about trying out this delicious dessert  was an interactive masterclass, a few weeks back with the Italian chef Maurizio Razelli from Hyatt Regency, New Delhi, where he showed us how to make this great Italian dessert in a really simple way. Of course, for making his dessert, he used ready made sponge fingers and mascorpone cheese which actually made the dessert seem a breeze. But nevertheless, it tasted so good that after coming back home, I just couldn't get the Tiramisu out of my mind and there and then I knew that come what may, I had to tackle this elusive dessert.  
I will be sharing the recipe which the chef taught us very soon but for the time being you can follow this recipe which has been completely adapted from Deeba's blog. I did not change anything because I wanted a tried and tested recipe and who could be more experienced than Deeba.
I will not lie and say making this dessert - especially from scratch is a breeze, but things can be made easier and simpler if you organize yourself well. Go ahead and make your sponge fingers, pastry cream and mascarpone cheese a day or two in advance. This way you will be just left with the simple task of assembling the dessert on the day you want it. If you don't want to sweat too much over it, go to a store and buy your sponge fingers and mascarpone cheese but I highly recommend that you must try out this wonderful luscious dessert atleast once in your lifetime just for the sheer experience.
If you are a staunch coffee lover who also loves their desserts, this is the ultimate showstopper, which is guaranteed to steal your heart. I promise you that all the effort is well worth it when you dig a spoon and take a bite of this little slice of heaven!! 
For me, this is is one dessert that spells poetry - the delicate sponge fingers soaked in a pool of strong coffee and layered with a sweet creamy filling which I am forever ready to lose my heart to!!
For the zabaglione:
2 large egg yolks
3 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup Marsala wine (or port or coffee) (I did not have the Marsala wine so I used some coffee liquer that hubby had got from Sikkim)
1/4 tsp vanilla essence
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
For the vanilla pastry cream:
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup whole milk
For the whipped cream:
1 cup chilled heavy cream 
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence
For the lady fingers
3 eggs, separated
6 tbspgranulated sugar
3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch
6 tbsp icing sugar
For the Mascarpone
500 ml cream (I used Amul)
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
To assemble the tiramisu:
2 cups brewed espresso, warmed
1 tsp rum extract (optional)
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
36 ladyfinger biscuits
2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
A day or two in advance make your sponge fingers, mascarpone cheese and pastry cream.
To make the Lady fingers
Preheat your oven to175 C
line a baking tray wih greased parchment paper.
Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. 
Gradually add granulated sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.
In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue, using a wooden spoon. 
Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. 
Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or you could also use a Ziploc bag with the end snipped off) and fill with the batter. 
Pipe the batter into 5″ long and 3/4″ wide strips leaving about 1″ space in between the strips.
Alternately, you could also pipe a circle to use for the base of the dessert. (see picture below)
Sprinkle half the confectioner’s sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.
Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.
Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.
Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.
To make the zabaglione
Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water.
In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.
Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.
Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.
To make the Mascarpone
Heat the cream in a double boiler. The cream should be at a simmer to prevent from scorching the bottom)
Stir in the lemon juice and continue to heat for 5 minutes more till small bubbles start appearing at the surface.
The cream should thicken enough to coat the back of a spoon.
Remove from heat, cover and let sit at room temperature for 35-40 minutes until it is cools to room temperature
Pour it in a strainer lined with multiple layers of cheesecloth. (Don't worry if it looks a little thin at this stage, it will thicken on refrigerating).
Cover with plastic wrap, and place in the refrigerator. Allow the cream to strain out for 8-12 hours, preferably overnight.
Refrigerate for about 24 hours to let the whey drain and the cream thickens.
For the pastry cream:
Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.
Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.
Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)
Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.
For the whipped cream:
Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.
Now that you are done with all the hard work, it is now time to assemble the Tiramisu.
To assemble the Tiramisu
Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to make it smooth. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.
Line a 20 cm springform cake tin or a round souffle dish with clingfilm left overhanging at the sides. Place the round sponge disc in the center of your cake tin.
Stand the ladyfingers upright to line the sides of the pan.
Now brush the sides and the bottom sponge fingers lightly with the espresso syrup.
Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the bottom layer of sponge, pushing outwards into the sponge fingers to further help hold them in place.
Quickly dip more lady fingers into the syrup and layer on top of the cream. Spread the mascarpone cream mixture evenly on top and smoothen it flat.
Create one more layer with the ladyfingers and cream.
Cover the top with a foil and refrigerate overnight.
When ready to serve, gently pull it out with the help of the overhanging clingfilm. (Don't worry it is set firm by now and will not crumble). Lift and peel off the clingfilm from the bottom.
Place on a serving plate and if you are feeling a little fancy tie a ribbon around it.
Serve sprinkled with grated chocolate and dust with a layer of cocoa powder.
Alternately, you can also individually set your Tiramisu in nice cocktail glasses.
Now tell me, wasn't it worth all the effort!!

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